Valentine’s Day is almost here! Often this means classroom parties, treats, and showing those special people in your life how much you love them with flowers, cards and chocolates. And whether you are ready or not, the day will come when your child will start showing interest in a Valentine of their own. This can bring up a lot of questions about what is appropriate for those in their tween years when it comes to young love. Stacy Pickett, Guidance Counselor for Liberty-Benton middle school, provides parents with information to help navigate the murky waters of middle school crushes, dating and romance.
Tween romantic interest is normal and healthy
Stacy points out that according to the Centre for Adolescent Health, it’s a typical developmental milestone for teens and pre-teens to spend time thinking about being in a relationship. It’s also very common for pre-teens to have a crush on someone and to communicate with that person on social media or through texting. Hanging out in groups can be one way that teens get to know others and develop romantic interests. On the other hand, some children don’t show much interest in romantic relationships until their late teens and that is perfectly normal, too.
Advice for parents: communication is key
While romantic interest is common in the middle school years, parents will want to talk openly with their children about expectations and rules. “An open line of communication and telling your child what you expect from them is extremely important. They need to know that you care about them and want to help them to have a positive experience in their relationships,” explains Pickett. Pickett also recommends that dating be monitored closely, if parents allow it, at a young age. “Never push your child to want to date someone. They will grow up at their own pace, like faster than you think,” she adds.
Make guidelines and monitor devices
While it may not make you popular with your child, setting guidelines and monitoring devices are Pickett’s top suggestions. “Parents should monitor their children and limit how much social media they are using. Each parent will have their own opinion as to when they want to allow their child to have a cell phone. I just encourage parents to monitor them closely. It is ok to check texts, social media and limit how long their child uses the device. It is so easy for kids to become addicted to their phones and social media that it can lead them to places they shouldn’t go. Talk, talk, talk about what they are doing on their phones,” says Pickett.
Parents embarking into new territory with the use of social media and cell phones, but setting guidelines and communicating expectations can help you sail through those rough middle school waters. By doing so, you are showing your kids how much you care. They are, of course, your Valentine first.